Friday, February 28, 2014

Interview with Paul Mattick Jr

More business as usual. It complements very well his book Business as usual and is fairly comprehensive. I wonder whether some human elements are ignored though he talks of the way people organize during disasters, of Paris commune and Russia around 1918. There is more recent one in Telanagana from 1946-52 led by communists. Finally it was crushed by the Government of India by the liberation of the Hyderabad state and the communist high command's lack of independent thinking; they looked up to Stalin for advice. In the current Telangana movement, some of the leaders are descendants of those who lost power (The son also rises). There is also theory of capitalism as power where Differential accumulation rather than absolute capital matters 
And then there is the special role of USA with dollar as de facto international currency. So many countries are forced to accumulate dollar reserves which means that USA will have perennial problems with deficits in both trade and budget unless they can export the problems to other countries. This may explain the scramble for Africa and developing countries which is also mentioned by Paul Mattick. So my reading is that American type capitalism will survive for a few more decades.

Trying to convert my granddauhter Ava

When I told Ava that Aishwarya Rai married Amitabh Bachan's son, she was not happy. She said "But she likes Shah Rukh Khan more?" Reminded me of my disappointment when Akkineni Nageswararao did not marry S.Varalakshmi after Balaraju 1948. I am tryin to convert her to Sridevi. The video seems to be working. A song from Balaraju

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Economics seems to be hard

For the first time, I bought an economics book looking for a point that bothered me: "Predatory State" by James Galbraith. The passage which he confirms my doubt is this. " And as the new global monetary system developed, the growing need for dollars-for monetary reserves-held outside the United States would come to guarantee that the United States would necessarily experience both trade deficits and budget deficits almost all the time." Many of other economists I try to follow via Mark Thoma's 'Economist's View" do not seem to emphasize this. This bit of understanding of just one sentence came from a discussion in Naked Capitalism. It may be long time before I understand any economics. The discussion is in the thread of Naked Capitalism. There is also a link to this summary of the book by Aaron Swartz. 

Kishore Kumar dancing with KumKum and Nimmi

Joys of crowded living

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Interesting article on creative writing funding

How Iowa flattened literature by Eric Bennett (via 3quarksdaily)
Abstract: With CIA help writers were enlisted to battle both communism and egghead abstraction. The damage still lingers

Singularity links

A friend writes "The common theme that appears to underlie everything from the Snowden revelations to Kurzweil’s mission at Google to Netflix to the LHC experiments and, I suspect, to the future of politics is the acquisition and successful analysis of seriously big data.  The increment in size and its on–going management leads to a definitive change in the quality of resulting predictions.  Instead of there being a huge democratic enhancement, as these developments could produce, they provide a manifestation of the power that such techniques provide for their ultimate owners."And links to
Computers cleverer than humans in fifteen years
More in the same vein

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bharata natyam documentary featuring Kumari Kamala

posted by Minai. The video

Gregory Clark on social mobility

in Your ancestors, your fate "When you look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower than many of us believe, or want to believe. This is true in Sweden, a social welfare state; England, where industrial capitalism was born; the United States, one of the most heterogeneous societies in history; and India, a fairly new democracy hobbled by the legacy of caste. Capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution." 
This was not apparent to me since I have seen lot of social mobility in some castes. But the point may be as Suvrat  Kher said in his summary of David Reich et all "The findings indicate that there is a larger amount of genetic variation between Indian groups than there is between say European groups. This the authors suggest is a result of a small number of individuals founding different ethnic groups that then remained endogamous and therefore genetically divergent. This has important medical value as recessive diseases may correlate with ethnic groups." 

A Nashad song from Bara Dari 1955

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A thoughtful article on democracy

Can the internet democratize capitalism by Yanis Varoufakis. Many comments too. Fames Macdonald's ideas on the role of public in the rise of democracy or notions of subsidiarity are discussed. May be ban at every level people over certain income to hold electoral positions and appointments by elected representatives for a start.
P.S. A response to my suggestion "Unworkable (for reasons of access additionally), as is the wonderful proposition that anyone with an “indispensable” occupation be ineligible for public office. Lawyers and accountants would be all over this like flies on sh*t."

C.Ramachandra music from Nirala

Beyond Wendy Doniger

Beyond Batra and Wendy Doniger: Reflections on the study of Hinduism in the American Academy in Chapati Mystery
Such investigations are recommended by Garrett Field in his review of Amanda Weidman, Lakshmi Subramanian books on South Indian music"This would lead to larger questions about the history of the interaction of American universities, American financed but South Asian based language-training programs, and fellowship organizations, fieldwork experience, and with the scholarship ethnomusicologists produced in the twentieth century. Such a history of scholarly patronage would include a comprehensive understanding of change in historicism. Moreover, while there has been a surge of interest in the ways academic disciplines like philology articulated central aspects of European modernity, the emergence of institutional support in America for the ethnomusicological task of studying the entire world’s music must articulate something significant about American history in the 1950s and 1960s.
These kinds of inquiries are reflexive in their own way since they shift the focus onto “us,” the imagined community of ethnomusicologists, and the institutions that enable us to produce scholarship on the music of India. “Reflexive” writing often means bringing our subjective experience as ethnographers into the fabric of our texts, holding out the promise of “distancing us from historically colonialist approaches” (Kisliuk 1997:23). However true this is, reflexive writing often ignores the fascinating interactions of American universities, language-training programs, and fellowship organizations, with fieldwork, scholarship and the maintenance of academic disciplines. These kinds of investigations would get at the logic behind the paradigm shift found in the scholarship of Higgins, Neuman, Weidman, and Subramanian."

Shades of Uday Shankar

From Har Har Mahadev (1950)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Some mathematical forecasters

The mathematical model that predicted the revolutions sweeping the globe right now on the work of  Yaneer Bar-Yam (via Naked Capitalism)
Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays by Peter Turchin
Mathematical Fortune-Telling about the work of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Two interviews with Paul Mattick Jr, second part

From the second interview:
I n the early part, he talks of Marx critique of capitalism, its tendency for decreased returns on capital and resulting depressions. The keynsian interventions postpone the problems and the government debt increases until austerity kicks in...His suggestions of solutions seem to involve some conflict:
"Rail: Your book ends on a somber note—the vision of a coming catastrophe once the coming economic and ecological. We were hoping for a little more optimism from someone who believes, as you’ve said in another article, that another world is possible. Is this just an empty gesture or phrase? What is that other world, what does it look like, and what can people do to make it a reality?
Mattick: Well that’s what is so frustrating because it’s so obvious. We have this enormous productive apparatus. We have a world full of buildings, offices, schools, factories, farms, and technology. And there is absolutely no reason why people shouldn’t simply take that stuff and start using it. What holds them back is that, on the one hand, it doesn’t occur to them that they can do it and, on the other hand, that the police, the army—an enormous apparatus—prevents them from doing it. The way people are raised makes it very hard for them to think that you can just take this over, that this belongs to you. It’s funny—I was reading an article written in 1831 by the French revolutionary Blanqui with the wonderful title: “The man who makes the soup deserves to eat it.” He says it’s all very simple: if all the owners of capital were to disappear, the world would be exactly the same—you would have the same farms, the same factories—but if all the workers disappeared, then everyone would starve to death. We have not advanced one bit beyond that point of view. The problem is that people are so used to the existence of capitalism, they’re so used to the idea that you have to work for somebody else, that they don’t see that they can just take it over. What will move people to take that step? I think that it takes a very drastic experience to push people out of their normal mode of behavior."

Two interviews with Paul Mattick Jr

For my own reference to study later. In the first from 1991, he discusses 'This comparison between the fascist and Nazi programs and social democratic programs is scandalous for many people' , his father Paul Mattick Sr. who disagreed with both Lenin an Keynes,  Marx
 (Your father saw Marx mainly as a negative thinker., as a critic of capitalism. 
... and not a positive thinker. 
Well, Marx explicitly refused to make, as he said, recipes for the future...)
"Did your father ever develop this theme on the nature of a socialist society? 
No. He wanted very much to, and he intended to, and was beginning to work on such a project at the time when he died...... But these, sort of speculations, about the possible future were developed really in the 1930s, and since by 1980 a great deal had happened in the world, he felt that the whole issue had to be re-thought, that, for example, the use of modern means of telecommunication, television, computer networks, made possible a kind of democratic decision making which was simply not -- for practical reasons -- possible in an earlier period.
So your father took seriously this kind of technological advance. 
Yes, absolutely. He thought these were potentially extremely powerful tools."
"I would like to return to the question of ideology. Because the idea of "socialism" or "communism" has been so badly discredited in the minds of so many people by the Bolshevik experience, do you think that anything can be saved from this, starting with the terms themselves? 
Well, as I said, I think that this movement, the workers' movement, which started in the 19th century, is now completely over. So you could say that the words "socialism" or "communism," which were very much disgraced by the Bolshevik movement, may be irretrievable. In my opinion, that doesn't matter very much. The fact is that capitalism remains. It has the same nature that it had before, except that it is much more highly developed. We now have, to a much greater extent than ever before in history, a world capitalist system, a global working class, which is facing the problem that the working class has always faced, namely that it has a choice between taking control over the system of production and distribution in its own hands or suffering indefinitely the consequences of the capitalist mode of production. At the present time, for example, that means, I believe, deep economic depression. And it certainly also means severe ecological disruptions and even major disasters, and continuous warfare."
(Next from the second interview)

Friday, February 21, 2014

The war on poor continues in UK

"The justice minister Shailesh Vara said: "The government has made clear that reducing the deficit is our top priority. It is right that the Ministry of Justice looks at all opportunities to bring down the cost of our services to the taxpayer.
"We believe that it is right to consider whether those who use tribunals should make a greater contribution to their costs, where they can afford to do so, which is why we introduced fees for employment tribunals last year.
"We will continue to keep the position under review, but we have no current plans to extend fee charging into other tribunals."" from People stripped of benefits can be charged for challenging decision.

Inequality increasing in Sweden too

Samuel Brittan's introduction to economics

A Swift lesson in the principles of economics at "An orthodox approach might start with supply and demand and the “invisible hand” and then go on to the complexities and controversies of modern macroeconomic policy. But an alternative might start with a quotation from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels , published in 1726. “Whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together,” says the king of Brobdingnag. If he had been writing a century later he would surely been tempted to add “and economists” to his strictures on politicians."

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Hours of work increasing or decreasing? from The Economist. I wonder whether after hour work which seems to becoming common among white collar workers is counted.
James Bessen on the jobless future, not quite convincing.
Death of Indian workers in Qatar from The Guardian
Not surprising collusion to keep the wages down, this time from Silican valley
Larys Syll on Mankiw's problem
Foreign Policiy on the Thai Malaise "The second challenge, seen in attempts to disrupt voting in Bangkok and elsewhere, concerns the logic of electoral politics. Now that voters in the north and northeast have been mobilized to vote as a bloc, the Bangkok middle classes and their southern allies face the real prospect that they will never again choose a government to their liking. "
Andrew Gellman on Richard Florida
Why BJP voted for the bill in spite of earlier objections "But the RSS helped the BJP make up its mind. The diktat from Nagpur was clear: Support Telangana. This is our old agenda and there is a great scope for BJP to grow in Telangana. This is much more than what can be achieved in Seemandhra." from a TOI article.

More of Mitchell Johnson coming

Another bout of Mitchell Johnson coming and The Guardian has an article and my reaction. In all this experiments with measurements, I am not sure whether what you do instinctively ( which may come from practice, particularly when young) is really be measured. Or may be there is a series of mental calculations going on right from the moment the bowler starts his run; his gait, eyes, etc...and the body is already in the process of reacting, and correcting. There is a theory that our brains are prediction- generating machines. At least, that seems to be one aspect of it. See Carl Zimmer's article

Chris Dillow on the benefits of English

"Deirdre McCloskey has estimated that around a quarter (pdf) of US GDP is talk: think of lawyers, salesmen, journalists and managers among others. The proportion is so large because communication facilitates trade, entrepreneurship and the division of labour. It's difficult to buy and sell without talking - at least if the products are complicated. The division of labour requires coordination between individuals, which requires communication. And you learn about profitable opportunities through listening and reading." from The Benefits of English. Some commenters disagree.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Relevant Academicians needed

Nicholas Kristoff Professors, we Need You "SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates." via Ramarao Kanneanti timeline. Ramarao remarks " But, we can surely simplify enough to explain to educated outsiders. By relating to the models that they are familiar with, we can even make it relevant." My response "What you said is possible in the usual sciences and there have been some excellent writers even at the blog level from Sean Caroll to Carl Zimmer and Ed Yong. Possibly people tend to emphasize their own areas and at the very small level our intutive concepts do not seem to work. Also there is the problem of university publicity machines pushing their own 'breakthroughs'. I have more problem with social sciences including economics. People like Mankiw and Krugman seem to start from the same basics, write clearly and say different things. It is not clear to me how sound the foundations are. Their conclusions probably come from their political biases. Dissenting views are ignored or suppressed. For example the empirical work of David Card or those of Marxist writers like Paul Mattick who long ago disagreed with Keynes. Now many seem to agree with some of his analysis and it is becoming clearer with the work of Thomas Piketty. Card explained his problems "I've subsequently stayed away from the minimum wage literature for a number of reasons. First, it cost me a lot of friends. People that I had known for many years, for instance, some of the ones I met at my first job at the University of Chicago, became very angry or disappointed. They thought that in publishing our work we were being traitors to the cause of economics as a whole." So politics seems to play a role in social science literature and makes it difficult for us to trust the experts even when they write clearly."

Some ancient wisdom about producing public intellectuals "VI-iv-18: He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son."  from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad via   
An earlier article in Foreign Policy discusses "Why  does so much of the academic writing on international affairs seem to be of little practical value, mired in a "cult of irrelevance"? "
See also Atul Gawande article Cowboys and pit crews : " the reality that medicine’s complexity has exceeded our individual capabilities as doctors."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rahul Banerjee on grassroots vs electoral politics

in his blog Anarkali. More discussion on his timeline. Excerpt:
"That is why there has been a veritable flood of people from the grassroots movements joining AAP. However, these people have not really analysed the winning methodology of AAP which involves sticking to anti-corruption and populist promises and then spending fairly large amounts of money to get the message across. After all even if you have a large number of volunteers working free you have to spend a lot of money to feed and house them and provide them with mobility and telecom connectivity apart from spending on publicity materials. The AAP was able to mobilise funds and voluntary support through an innovative campaign on the internet. It mustered Rs 20 crores which is a huge amount. However, currently the fund mobilisation is much less and stands about Rs 8 odd crores with the daily contributions having trickled down. To fight the Lok Sabha elections will require Rs 2 crores per seat if they are to be fought in the same way as the Delhi elections were fought by the AAP and therefore to fight even the announced 100 seats which have corrupt representatives the AAP will require 200 crores for a winning effort. This is something that the grassroots movement people who are migrating to AAP will have to come to terms with because the AAP does not have this kind of funds with it and so individual candidates will have to fend for themselves!!! In KMCS we discussed this thread bare and eventually came to the same conclusion as before that those who wanted to contest elections whether of Panchayats, assemblies or parliament were free to do so but would have to mobilise resources on their own and if needed they could join political parties. Many members of the KMCS are simultaneously members of the Congress, BJP or BSP. Now some like Shankar have become members of the AAP. 
So there is no confusion as there are many in the KMCS who are still not affiliated to any party and are committed to go on fighting at the grassroots for a decentralised social system which is just in all respects including the most important matter of gender equity. There will always be enough scope for such mobilisation within a liberal democratic system.
The AAP itself is going to face many hurdles to remain true to its ideals. The Socialists and Communists or say even the Hinduvadis of the RSS were very committed and upright in the beginning but the exigencies of acquiring and retaining power through elections have corrupted them. Kejriwal and a few at the top of AAP can remain true to their ideals but it will be difficult for them to keep their whole flock on the straight and narrow path of incorruptibility. Nevertheless at the moment the AAP is a progressive party within the liberal democratic set up and so it should be supported in every way to provide a better alternative than the Congress and the BJP which are both stooges of global capital."

Looking for bottle gourds

Friday, February 14, 2014

How to make economics a realist and relevant science

by Lars P.Syll here

The Demographic Cliff

Harry Dent on a promotion tour of his book The Demographic Cliff: "He discovered that he could predict what he calls the “spending wave” according to people’s age. At that time the postwar baby boom generation were having children and reaching the peak of their lifetime spending – not just on mortgages, but nappies, food, school fees and all the other extras that come with raising children.
The problem comes as that large generation passes its spending peak – at 46 in the US and about 47 in Australia, the UK and other western countries – and starts planning for retirement. This is the crux of his pessimistic world view.
“For the first time in history, the generation following is smaller. I spotted this first with Japan in 1988-89 where their demographics were turning. Everyone thought the 90s would see Japan pass the US and become the biggest economy in the world, but it collapsed and has been in deflation ever since,” he explains.
“The same thing is now happening in the US and Europe, especially southern Europe. Everyone thinks that in the current crisis we are fighting a debt bubble but it’s not a temporary financial crisis, it’s a demographic crisis.""
" Dent says he will apologise if he’s proved wrong, which he acknowledges could happen if central banks revert to their printing presses rather than slowing monetary stimulus as many are now doing.
“If we don’t see something starting to crack soon, a 20-30% fall in the stock market, for example, I’ll apologise. Governments will have pulled it off again and kicked the can down the road."
P.S. He has some advice here, mainly for Americans. His track record Concept better than reality
P.P.S. According to Wikipedia "The basis of Dent's research is the highly predictable nature of consumer spending based on a family's formation pattern: minimal spending as young adults, increased spending while rearing children, peaking their spending as their children leave home, and then slowing spending during the last 15 years of working life (48-63) while saving more and preparing for retirement." and after that many of his predictions have been off.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

More about books

I read books off and on and more articles these days. I am not sure about the value of reading books and recommending them to others. But I suppose that we have to use accumulated knowledge and reading provides a part of it. Many in earlier times before internet were written by winners and their cohorts and it is not clear which books one recommends to others, particularly one's own grown up children. I guess the important idea come through anyway through articles and it is not really necessary read books apart from some poetry. Following a discussion elsewhere, I have come up with two books , one not published yet in English. In the kind of social, economic and political areas I am interested in and have very little expertise, I think that these two help us to think for ourselves emphasizing on the data over long periods to gather, seeing the components, and analysing. The first is volume one "The sources of Social Power" by Michael Mann and the second "Capital in the 21st Century" by Thomas Piketty.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Democracy in India in the old days

Arvind Kejriwal's vision Arvind Chitra Katha by Shekhar Gupta (via Rahul Siddharthan's timeline)
Democracy of a high standard-ancient example by Dr. R.Nagaswamy
A recent example: The Making of Authority: Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi

Monday, February 10, 2014

Neecha Nagar 1946

reviewed by Dustedoff. One of the comments "After watching this film a boy from kolkatta wrote a letter to chetan anand, appreciating the film and expressed his desire to become his assistant director…………… chetan anand never replied to that letter and years latter this boy from kolkatta became a very big director and when he went to the pune film institute he met chetan anand and revealed this fact to him ……………. the boys name was ”Satyajit ray”."
Recently, Minai discussed the film and Uday Shankar in 

Zohra Segal's Shankar-Style Choreography in Neecha Nagar (Hindi, 1946)

See also Kamini Kaushal in the second dance 


"Capitalism survives by the vaccine of revolution." from Beware of geeks bearing revolution

News factories

"In the previous eight months, Packer's TV network had become a kind of Corby innocence factory, taking the unlikely material of a part-time beauty student accused of drug smuggling, and forging from her a martyr. The story, which Nine sewed up early with exclusive access agreements, made the network millions, and ultimately ensured Schapelle Corby became a household name, and a part of the zeitgeist.
"I said to Kerry, 'What do you think? Is she guilty'?", Costello recalls asking. "And Kerry said, 'Yes, I think she is.' I remember saying, 'But Nine is the cheerleader for her innocence.' And Kerry told me that this was how current affairs TV works - the audience was totally convinced of her innocence and so the network goes with what the public feels passionate about." from The Age. There is also more about how some are still making money out of the affair. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Piketty type arguments

and his data are being used even before his book is out in English. From  Karl Smith in FTAlphaville:
"As the quantity of capital increases, the return to capital is driven down. Eventually, the return to capital falls below the growth rate of the economy, and the value of the capital stock starts to shrink. This shrinking arises from the same dynamics that Piketty evokes to explain the growth in capital values over time. It is all about the return on capital vs. the growth rate of the economy...................
I am a fan of Piketty’s brute mechanistic approach. It is one that I have employed myself and on much the same question. It is one that led me to conjecture, and still suspect, that landlords are the once and future global plutocracy. And this happens precisely because all wealth is not created equal and some forms are more persistent and pernicious than others.
In the wake of the subprime crisis, I understand the temptation to rally against big banks and global finance. However, Lehman Brothers is dead. Sam Zell, founder and CEO of Equity Residential, is still alive. This is not an accident. The future does not belong to high flying titans. It belongs to dogged men and women who squirrel away rent checks when times are good, and buy your home when times are tight. This is the tyranny of land. Ignore it at your peril."
From an earlier post of Karl Smith Piketty and the case for land capital "...I think I’ve seen enough to identify a point of confusion that has led both defenders and critics of the book astray. Piketty uses the term capital to refer both to capital as classical economists understand it, and land. Now, neoclassical equations of the type Piketty employs rarely give reference to land, focusing solely on capital and labor. "
I guess the point is that lot of the return on this part of the capital is probably going to classes other than the those in the top and may not be contributing that much to the inequality. Moreover this part is not carefully studied and the land taxes vary from place to place. May be this is why Karl Smith's reading of inequality (comparison of r,g)  is different from Piketty's. I do not know. But with this kind of economic thinking with more refined data may be accessible to the general public.

The tyranny of minority of one in Victorian parliament

"The balance-of-power MP had wanted Speaker Ken Smith's scalp, and by 2.10pm on Tuesday, Smith was gone. He wanted his friend Christine Fyffe promoted instead, and by 3.15pm that day, she was.
And yet within hours, Shaw was at it again, siding with Labor to sink the government's business program, complaining that no one briefed him on it. Later, when Attorney-General Robert Clark briefed him on a bill for a new parliamentary budget office, he voted against it anyway. As one senior Liberal told The Sunday Age: ''We are sick to death of this.''
That's the thing about Shaw. He's unpredictable, erratic, hard to read. He says he despises Labor, yet will happily collude with them to flex his political muscle. He claims to hate the ''vulture'' media yet clearly thrives in the limelight, even telling colleagues last week that he hoped his new beard would guarantee front page coverage. And he makes bold demands - a chauffer-driven car to guarantee safe passage to work was the latest example - but doesn't like it when his needs aren't met. Just ask Ken Smith." from Geoff Shaw makes his mark in Victorian politics

Friday, February 07, 2014

Three articles by K.Balagopal on C.B. Naidu

Apparently Chandra Babu Naidu is a standby PM candidate for some coalition. Here are some articles about him. There may be many more and some better ones. But these give some idea of CBN.

Politics as property October 1995: "Like any man who was born in a four-acres-of-dry-land peasant family from backward Rayalaseema and has made for himself umpteen crores by the time he is 40. he is abundantly endowed with what capitalism calls enterprise. But going beyond making money for himself and his cronies, he claims the vision necessary to structure a modern capitalist society endowed with the characteristics
required to reproduce itself as a matter of course. This, as we have said, is one vision that underlay the rise of the Telugu Desam Party."

A long reflective article during the middle of Naidu reign June 1999 The Man and the Times (It is for me more difficult to copy and paste from here. But this seems to be a very crucial article)

After his defeat Beyond Media Images June 2004, "Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, the new chief minister has given the impression of being a man who cares for the classes neglected by Chandrababu Naidu’s model of development. Whether that is really so, is extremely doubtful. That those classes have reposed trust in the Congress Party under his leadership is clear: the issues of irrigation and employment appear to have contributed to the defeat of the Telugu Desam Party, augmented by the desire for a separate state in the Telangana region."

Thursday, February 06, 2014

On the rise of robots

Martin Wolf reviewing the "The Second Machine Age" by Erk Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee says (google the title if the link does not work, See also Yves Smith (Susan Webber) commentary in If robots divide us, they will conquer:

"There are good reasons why people should be disturbed by this. First, the lives of those at the bottom might get worse: the authors note that the life expectancy of an American white woman without a high school diploma fell five years between 1990 and 2008. Second, if income becomes too unequal, opportunities for young people dwindle. Third, the wealthy become indifferent to the fate of the rest. Finally, a vast inequality of power emerges, making a mockery of the ideal of democratic citizenship."

About Satya Nadella

Dalel Benababaali has several posts where many have been wondering about his caste status and feeling proud that he is from their caste. It seems that his father was not keen about such things and very few knew about his caste identity "Satya Nadella's father Yugandhar is known as a very committed, straight-forward civil servant, and nobody knew his caste during his tenure because he didn't wear any surname suggesting it. He apparently says publicly that he hates Eenadu publication [which deliberately puts his caste title]. Satya's father in law K.R.Venugopal too is a class apart among civil servants, and respected among progressive and dalit intellectual circles. Now, some stupid paper writes his name as Yugandhar 'Naidu', while some other casteist papers identify his son as Satyanarayana 'Chowdary'. Nobody has felt any shame in the fact that Mr.Yugandhar shut his door to media, and switched off his mobile and disconnected his landline. And now these two icons of old world being dragged into the shit they abhorred and shunned for life! Such utterly shameless people!!" Moreover the discussions really were not about what this success in corporate life means to eneral wefare or people in India. Finally, it took The Guardian to articulate these doubts Actually, Satya Nadella's selection as Microsoft CEO isn't great for Indians. But who knows? His father and father in law ( both IAS, friends and from different castes) seem exemplary. May be some thing good will come out of it.
P.S. More tidbits (via Rahul Siddhathan)
(via Akshay Regulagedda) , interesting comments too

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

On the direction of evolution

Evolution, You're Drunk by Amy Maxmen (via Ed Yong) "With comb jellies at the base of the tree, evolution suddenly seems less like a march towards complexity and more like a meandering stroll. This isn’t a new idea. Back in 1996, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould posited that evolution progresses like a drunkard’s walk. "

What happened to Damascus steel

"Thus, by blending the unique characteristics of Wootz steel with a forging process that included tiny amounts of specialized materials, the blacksmiths of the Islamic Civilization were able to create the Damascan steel. What happened in the mid-18th century was that the chemical makeup of the raw material altered--the minute quantities of one or more of the minerals disappeared, perhaps because the particular lode was exhausted. Such a difference would not have been apparent to the blacksmith visually; but, interestingly, the blacksmiths may have extended the life of the process by including small pieces of the previous batch in each new batch." From
Which also links to a website on Damascuss steel. The raw maretial called 'wootz steel' was from Deccan, I think More information in Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Meaningless jobs and no jobs

I believe that lot of our jobs are meaningless and have been trying this quote on friends and family since 2006 "all men are mild lunatics engaged in pursuits that seem to them very important while an absurdly logical force keeps them at their futile jobs." I have not been able to convince anybody, but there was an addition from Jhansi: 'many women too'. Today Dalel Benbabaali mentioned this article on bull-shit jobs. Enjoy. 
Mishra says towards the end of this article (behind a firewall)in NewYork Review of Books "It is as if we have been given a glimpse not so much of an unjust social or political setup as of what Nabokov, writing about "The Overcoat," called "flaws in the texture of life itself.""
This may very well be true, but Gaeber's point in the above, blaming many meaningless jobs on capitalism, seems to me to have some validity. Apart from this, as foreseen in the 1994 book 'A Jobless Future'  "Accordingly, if unwork is fated to be no longer the exception to the rule of nearly full employment, we need an entirely new approach to the social wage and, more generally, "welfare" policy. If there is work to be done, everyone should do some of it; additional remuneration would depend on the kind of work an individual performs." Some have been suggesting universal basic income
"We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do -- the value we create -- is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.
This sort of work isn't so much employment as it is creative activity. Unlike Industrial Age employment, digital production can be done from the home, independently, and even in a peer-to-peer fashion without going through big corporations. We can make games for each other, write books, solve problems, educate and inspire one another -- all through bits instead of stuff. And we can pay one another using the same money we use to buy real stuff." Another related solution, out of temperament or necessity, is to  form small communities relatively independent of the state, described here, here and other places.

Monday, February 03, 2014

A brief preview of Piketty's book

from Thomas Piketty & Marxist Meme "So accounting identities can be manipulated mathematically while still remaining necessarily true, and this is what Mr. Piketty does. His first law is simply rewriting some known identities.

First among these is that income is allocated between capital and labor. Income from capital is known as return on capital, while income from labor is called wages. The total income is the sum of the return on capital and wages. So it could be, for example, that 30% of total income is awarded to capital, while 70% is awarded to wages. The fraction of total income that's awarded to capital is called alpha.

The second identity is a relationship between the average global return on capital (let's designate that by r), and the rate of growth of the global economy (let's call that g). Piketty shows that if r >g, then alpha must get bigger over time. That is, a larger and larger fraction of the global wealth will accrue to capital, with an ever smaller fraction going to wages.

Conversely, if r < g, then the reverse is true--wages will grow relative to capital.

In the former case, r > g, reasonably assuming that rich people own most of the capital, then more and more wealth will accrue to the 1%. The rich will get richer, and the poor, while perhaps not getting poorer, will certainly be getting richer a lot slower. In the latter case, r < g, the premium goes to wages, and so wealth is more evenly distributed across society.

So which is it? The relative values of r and g depend on empirical fact rather than accounting identities. And here Mr. Piketty apparently excels--he has collected extensive data from most of the capitalist world from before the French Revolution to the present. He has found that for most of the last 200-300 years that r > g. The exception has been the period from 1913 to 1970--during that time r < g. His conclusion is that r > is the normal state of capitalism, while r < was an aberration that will likely never be repeated.

Today global growth is in the 2-3% range, while the average return on capital is roughly 4-5%. Thus r > g, and accordingly an ever increasing fraction of wealth is accruing to the top 1%. This is certainly true in the US, evidenced by high unemployment, declining labor force participation, and stagnant wages. Piketty argues that global growth can't get much higher. It depends predominantly on two things: population growth (stagnant), and improvements in technology (yielding approximately 1.5%). Growth is as high as it is because of China, but as it becomes fully integrated into the capitalist system its growth rate will slow, taking global growth down with it.

The return on capital has averaged 4-5% over the past two centuries, and barring exceptional circumstances is unlikely to change significantly. So Mr. Piketty forecasts r > for as far as the eye can see.

The exceptional period from 1913 to 1970 was due to the World Wars (echoing my Trotskyist friends). By destroying so much capital, the return on capital was greatly reduced (perhaps even negative in some years). Further, rebuilding Europe and Asia enabled very strong growth. So, with r < g, this was the heyday of labor, when workers could claim an ever larger share of the pie. Unfortunately, economists coming of age during that time thought that was normal, and that capitalism would inevitably lead to a richer and more equitable society. Mr. Piketty says that's wrong.

Piketty's view is very pessimistic, essentially condemning a large fraction of the population to relative poverty. He suggests that 50% of the population will generally benefit from the trend toward capital, but that the bottom 50% will be losers."
See also the rest of the author's comments. About the last point, Gabriel Palma's views mentioned earlier. the losers are the bottom 40 percent, the top ten percent ain and the the other fifty percent take half the income. from data of about 135 countries
P.S. Another note about Palma